Drivers who hog the middle lane of the motorway or tailgate other drivers could face on-the-spot fines of £100 and three points on their licences under new measures announced by the government.
From next month, police will be able to issue drivers with fines and three points on the spot for careless driving offences that currently have to go to court.
Police are also expected to get powers to issue instant fixed penalty notices for not giving way at a junction or using the wrong lane at a roundabout.
The change to powers is intended to free up police time spent on court cases.
As part of the new measures current fixed penalties for using a mobile phone while driving or not wearing a seatbelt will also rise from £40 to £100.
The measures bring careless driving offences into line with the penalties for similar non-motoring fixed penalties.
Offences such as these have often gone unpunished because of the bureaucracy involved in prosecuting a case. A motorist currently has to be stopped by a police officer, a summons issued and evidence presented in court.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond told the Daily Telegraph: “Careless drivers are a menace and their negligence puts innocent people’s lives at risk.
“That is why we are making it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers by allowing them to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice rather than needing to take every offender to court.
“We are also increasing penalties for a range of driving offences to a level which reflects their seriousness and which will ensure that they are consistent with other similar penalty offences.”
Motorists will still be able to appeal against the fixed penalty decisions in court and more serious examples will be subject to the court process where drivers could face higher fines and penalties.
AA president Edmund King said: “An increase in the standard motoring fixed penalty fine will help deter those who commit motoring offences including mobile phone use.
“We are also pleased to see that at long last new powers and fines will be given to the police to tackle the top three pet hates of drivers – tailgaters, mobile phone abusers and middle-lane hogs.”
Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy Neil Greig said: “This is a major change in traffic law enforcement and the IAM is concerned that issuing fixed penalty tickets for careless driving downplays the seriousness of the offence.
“This could free up traffic police time and allow them to maintain a higher profile. But without traffic cops out on the road to enforce this new approach it will have little impact on road safety.”
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, added: “Anti-social behaviour is as big a problem on the roads as it is in wider society. Giving police more discretion to act, and freeing up resources to allow them to do so by cutting procedural delays in court, is good news.
“We are also pleased to see that the stick is accompanied by the chance of re-education for moderate offenders.
“Raising the fine level to £100 is justifiable to tackle the plague of handheld mobile phone use which slows drivers’ reaction times even more than being at the drink-drive limit or taking cannabis.”